NASA’s plan to step foot on the moon is increasingly appearing to be a long shot due to the continuous delays and cost overruns. A report by the agency’s Office of the Inspector General provided insight into the struggles of the agency with regards to costs and schedules that threaten the success of the Artemis mission.
The cost of NASA’s Space Launch System has grown to the point where the agency must notify Congress and perform a formal reassessment of the program, NASA’s inspector general concluded in a March 10 report.
The report highlighted that major technical challenges and performance issues were faced by each of the major element contracts required for building and developing the SLS for Artemis I- Stages, ICPS, Boosters, RS-25 Adaptation and RS-25 restart. In addition, the required changes have resulted in a cost-overrun of $2 Billion and a schedule delay of at least 2 years.
The SLS project began in 2010 following which, the design stage concluded in 2014. Contracts for testing and manufacturing were awarded after which dates as early as 2016 began to be suspected for the SLS to be ready but NASA however officially committed to late 2018. This commitment proved to be dicey as the date has slipped multiple times. An instance was in January when the organisation announced that the launch planned in November was no longer tenable.
These delays have impacted funds and caused complications that have caused the program to blow past its original budget. The accomplishments under the program have thus cost more than expected. According to the report, the SLS program has cost NASA $17 Billion excluding the $6 Billion that has not been recorded. This is the Agency baseline commitment, essentially what NASA told Congress it would do in order to secure this funding.
Although the Inspector General made suggestions in order to track spending and keep contractors accountable for time and spending, repeated delays contribute to the goal appearing impossible to achieve. The scientists and engineers will not rush any part of the process when lives are at stake. The ultimate goal is to ensure that the moon rocket reaches safely and in good time.